Relatively, Queed cared nothing about his work on the Post, but for all the children of his brain, even the smallest and feeblest, he had a peculiar tenderness. He was more jealous of them than a knight of his honor, or a beauty of her complexion. No insult to his character could have enraged him like a slight put upon the least of these his articles. He sat back in his seat, feeling white, and something clicked inside his head. He remembered having heard that click once before. It was the night he determined to evolve the final theory of social progress, which would wipe out all other theories as the steam locomotive had wiped out the prairie schooner.
He knew well enough what that click meant now. He had got a new purpose, and that was to exact personal reparation from the criminal who had made Him and His Work the butt of street-car loafers. Never, it seemed to him, could he feel clean again until he had wiped off those fleas with gore.
To his grim inquiry Colonel Cowles replied that the head proof-reader, Mr. Pat, was responsible for typographical errors, and Mr. Pat did not “come on” till 6.30. It was now but 5.50. Queed sat down, wrote his next day’s article and handed it to the Colonel, who read the title and coughed.
“I shall require no article from you to-morrow or next day. On the following day”—here the Colonel opened a drawer and consulted a schedule—“I shall receive with pleasure your remarks on ’Fundamental Principles of Distribution—Article Four.’”
Queed ascended to the next floor, a noisy, discordant floor, full of metal tables on castors, and long stone-topped tables not on castors, and Mergenthaler machines, and slanting desk-like structures holding fonts of type. Rough board partitions rose here and there; over everything hung the deadly scent of acids from the engravers’ room.
“That’s him now,” said an ink-smeared lad, and nodded toward a tall, gangling, mustachioed fellow in a black felt hat who had just come up the stairs.
Queed marched straight for the little cubbyhole where the proof-readers and copy-holders sweated through their long nights.
“You are Mr. Pat, head proof-reader of the Post?”
“That’s me, sor,” said Mr. Pat, and he turned with rather a sharp glance at the other’s tone.
“What excuse have you to offer for making my article ridiculous and me a common butt?”
“An’ who the divil may you be, please?”
“I am Mr. Queed, special editorial writer for this paper. Look at this.” He handed over the folded Post, with the typographical enormity heavily underscored in blue. “What do you mean by falsifying my language and putting into my mouth an absurd observation about the most loathsome of vermin?”
Mr. Pat was at once chagrined and incensed. He happened, further, to be in most sensitive vein as regards little oversights in his department. His professional pride was tortured with the recollection that, only three days before, he had permitted the Post to refer to old Major Lamar as “that immortal veterinary,” and upon the Post’s seeking to retrieve itself the next day, at the Major’s insistent demand, he had fallen into another error. The hateful words had come out as “immoral veteran.”